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FIR registered against Axact CEO, six others in fake degree scam

Updated May 27, 2015
CEO of Axact Shoaib Sheikh is escorted by FIA staff. -PPI
CEO of Axact Shoaib Sheikh is escorted by FIA staff. -PPI
CEO of Axact Shoaib Sheikh is escorted by FIA staff. -PPI
CEO of Axact Shoaib Sheikh is escorted by FIA staff. -PPI
The arrest came after an FIA raid on the Axact office where officials said a large number of degrees were recovered.—Online/File
The arrest came after an FIA raid on the Axact office where officials said a large number of degrees were recovered.—Online/File

KARACHI: A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against seven individuals including Axact director and CEO Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh as well as a UAE-based company, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) sources said on Wednesday.

According to FIA sources, FIR (7/2015) was registered through Saeed Memon — the assistant director of FIA's corporate crime circle — on behalf of the state. The individuals named in the FIR were subsequently arrested and are in FIA remand until June 7, DawnNews reported.

A copy of the FIR obtained by Dawn
A copy of the FIR obtained by Dawn

The FIR was registered under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the accused have been booked under sections 420, 468, 471, 472, 473, 474, 477-A, 109 and 34.

A copy of the FIR obtained by Dawn
A copy of the FIR obtained by Dawn

Special laws were also invoked against the accused under sections 36 and 37 sections of the Electronic Transaction Ordinance 2002 and section 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2010.

A copy of the FIR obtained by Dawn
A copy of the FIR obtained by Dawn

Apart from Shaikh, others accused were identified as MS/Axact FZLLC — a UAE company which holds a major chunk of shares — and Waqas Atiq, Zeeshan Anwar, Zeeshan Ahmed, Haris Siddiqi, Farhan Kamal, Umair Hamid.

According to contents of the FIR, Shaikh and his wife Ayesha Shoaib Shaikh hold one share each in the company, while the UAE company FZLLC holds 599,998 shares.

According to FIA sources, this information was received from the Security Exchange Company of Pakistan (SECP).

The sources familiar with content of the FIR told Dawn that Shaikh is a paid CEO as well as the director of Axact and his wife is also a paid director as per form 29 and form-A provided by SECP to the FIA for legal assistance.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Axact CEO and centre of a massive fake degree fraud, Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh was taken into custody from his office.

In the presence of officials from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as well as police, Shaikh was taken away in a white vehicle.

Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh talking to FIA director Shahid Hayat as reporters look on
Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh talking to FIA director Shahid Hayat as reporters look on

The arrest came after an FIA raid on the Axact office on Khayaban-e-Ittehad, where officials said a large number of university degrees and student identification cards were recovered.

A view of a room sealed by FIA in one of Axact's Karachi offices.— DawnNews screengrab
A view of a room sealed by FIA in one of Axact's Karachi offices.— DawnNews screengrab

Also read: Editorial-Fake degree scandal

Shaikh had earlier requested the Sindh High Court to grant him protective bail against a ‘potential arrest’ in the fake degrees probe currently being undertaken by the FIA. However, his request was dismissed Monday, as the bench did not find any merit in his application.

The FIA has decided to file a case against Shaikh. According to FIA officials, Shaikh would formally be arrested after registration of a first information report (FIR).

Last week, action against Axact kicked off after Nisar ordered an inquiry into the story published by The New York Times that claimed the company was issuing fake degrees as part of a massive, global scam.

Take a look: Nisar vows transparent investigation of Axact fake degree scam

The minister in his directive also said that the FIA was to determine whether the contents of the NYT story were true and whether the company was involved in any illegal business which may bring a "bad name" to Pakistan.

The detailed NYT report titled "Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions" and written by New York Times Pakistan bureau chief Declan Walsh outlined how Axact — referred to as a "secretive Pakistani software company" — allegedly earned millions of dollars from scams involving fake degrees, non-existent online universities and manipulation of customers.

Know more: Damning NYT report uncovers Axact's fake degrees scam

According to the report, Axact created a series of fake websites involving “professors” and students who it said were in fact paid actors.

FIA officers swooped on the Karachi headquarters of the company last week, seizing equipment and records and expelling employees from the building.

The company's Rawalpindi office had also been sealed and employees questioned, an official said requesting anonymity.

The interior minister also assured that the ministry will not bear pressure from any individual regarding investigation of the Axact scandal. He added that the investigation will be fair and transparent in this regard.